Being Essential in the Time of Covid-19
2 and a half years ago I started a new job as a receptionist for the District office for our local health departments and it turned out to be one of the most stress free jobs I’ve ever had. There wasn’t much to do some days so I was literally trying to find things to do. This job was great for my then fragile mental health. I was recovering from a year of crippling depression. 6 months ago, I decided to apply for a job as a grocery store clerk. It was a straightforward easy but labor intensive job. I had decided to get this second job as a way to pay off debts and save up money so I could save up money to separate from my husband. Up to a month ago, things were moving forward for the most part. Somehow I managed to balance living with my estranged husband, being a mom to my 3 kids, having 2 jobs, and starting a new relationship with this great guy while still seeing my on and off toxic lover. Life was unconventional but pretty normal for me.
And then the first week of March happened, the first calls from businesses, hospitals, and the general public started coming in inquiring about the Coronavirus. I had no guidance and was unprepared like everyone in my office so we literally had to make it up as we went along. Eventually each week we got better at handling the situation but it was rough as information changed hourly. For three weeks at my first job, I felt like I lived in a sea of confusion and felt completely overwhelmed. I think my greatest fear at that time was that I wouldn’t route a call to the appropriate person and that it would potentially cost someone’s life. It was a heavy burden for me, a receptionist in an administrative office.
And as this was going on, my second job at the grocery store saw an onslaught of customers on Thursday, March 12. The lines (both the register and the self checkout) were lined up to almost the back of the store. For whatever reason, people thought that toilet paper needed to be bought so that was one of the first things everyone bought and buggies were filled to the rim. It was uber panic buying meets hysteria. And around 7 oclock, things started to calm down. Cashiers and front end managers were catching their breaths, and then the governor announced that schools would be closed for a week…and here comes another rush of panic buyers. For almost 2 weeks, this is what me and my coworkers come into when we work. Trying to keep social distancing surrounded by customers while stocking up empty shelves is basically impossible. The managers and my boss have tried their best to provide support to us while they themselves are also stressed with an ever changing situation in a pandemic one was never prepared for.
In the third week of April, rapid changes are still happening at both my jobs. Next week, my job responsibilities at my first job are changing. And at the second job, masks have become mandatory. This pandemic has not only changed the way everyone lives but also how all of us work. It feels like a dystopian nightmare that I will never wake up from.
As far as family life goes, I almost feel guilty for how financially beneficial this has been for all of us. As an essential worker still earning my wages and bonuses on top of it all, I’ll be so much closer to clearing my debt and saving up to separate from my husband. My children-my oldest got laid off, my middle child who is homeschools-it didn’t affect him much at all…but my little one, my social butterfly-it has affected him tremendously. I hate that I have tried my best to shelter him from trauma and then this pandemic happened. I’m sure though that I’m not the only parent feeling this way. I’ve been pretty good at not seeing any of my friends or extended family except for my toxic lover a few days ago.
This pandemic has brought up a few questions for me:
What is really worth keeping in my life after all of this ?
How do I really want my life to look like once I leave my husband?
Are any of the men in my life worthwhile or should I really strive to be a super independent and feminist woman that just uses men for pleasure after this is all over?
How many therapy sessions will my youngest kid need because of this pandemic?